Majority of international student graduates leave Netherlands

Majority of international student graduates leave Netherlands

While a majority of international students indicate they would like to stay in the Netherlands after graduation, only slightly more than a third currently do so according to EP-Nuffic.

EP-Nuffic, with its headquarters in The Hague and 11 offices worldwide, is the expertise and service centre for internationalisation in Dutch education, and aims to internationalise education.

The Netherlands is the largest provider of English-taught study programmes in mainland Europe with more than 2.100 international study programmes available.

Research shows that international students choose the Netherlands because of the academic quality and the cosmopolitan atmosphere, but that the country loses its appeal to some during or after their study.

It is in the self-interest of the Netherlands to try to keep more foreign students after graduation, as they cost the government about 108 million euros per year. To get a return on that investment, international students have to get a job in the Netherlands so they pay taxes.

Make it in the Netherlands

In order to keep more international students in the Netherlands, EP-Nuffic launched an initiative three years ago called "Make it in the Netherlands! 2013 - 2016".

At the time, 70 percent of international students attending Dutch universities indicated that they would like to build a career in the Netherlands after graduation, while only 27 percent actually did so.

Since the launch, the number of international students staying increased to 38 percent.

EP-Nuffic cites a number of reasons for why international students change their mind about staying in the Netherlands after graduation.

Job market in the Netherlands

The number one reason international graduates leave the Netherlands is because they are not able to find work.

Research by EP-Nuffic indicates that this can be due to the subject studied, the Dutch language and unfamiliarity with the local job market.

The mismatch between the degree a student acquires and the demand on the job market is one issue, and one that also affects Dutch students. For example, only seven percent pursues degrees in science and technology, while there are plenty of jobs to be found in this field in the Netherlands.

One solution would be to encourage prospective students to base their study choice on the expected labour market.

Dutch language barrier

International students feel that they are at a disadvantage as long as they don’t speak Dutch fluently.

The government estimates that an average of 500 to 600 hours of Dutch language study are typically needed to reach a level of work proficiency.

Considering Dutch language course are not cheap, this requires a significant time and financial investment from students who just spent years finishing their bachelor's or master’s degree.

Cultural barrier in the Netherlands

One common complaint by international students is that they feel excluded by the Dutch when they don’t speak Dutch well enough. EP-Nuffic confirms that social integration is a problem, even within English-language programmes.

Additionally, EP-Nuffic has found that many organisations and activities do not cater towards international students.

Practical barriers for international students

There are also administrative challenges that international students face. Especially when they come from a non-EU country it can be very difficult to get a residence permit in the Netherlands. Currently, international students who graduate from Dutch universities are granted an orientation year. That allows them one year to find work without needing a work permit.

Another example of practical issues faced by international students is what happens when they start an internship in the Netherlands. They are then required to pay for health insurance because they are no longer covered by their home country or the special arrangement for international students.

Internships typically don’t pay much, and having to pay almost 100 euros per month can be a significant financial obstacle for international interns.

Solutions for internationals in the Netherlands

EP-Nuffic is working on a number of long-term solutions with universities and other stakeholders. They have created a website for international students in the Netherlands that contains everything you need to know if you want to build a career in the Netherlands.

Here you can find out which occupations are in demand and which rules and regulations you have to be mindful of. You can even submit your personal data to receive relevant information about visa, residence permits, insurance, tax and financial information to help you prepare for your stay and career in the Netherlands.

Thomas Lundberg


Thomas Lundberg

Born as a Swede in the Netherlands, this life-long expat has spent his time in Belgium, the United States and Amsterdam. He began his professional career as a regional news...

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